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Globally, the pandemic became a springboard for people to carve out a new life for themselves. Covid-19 ended up becoming a catalyst for change for the workplace – it forced many to shift their priorities, spurring them to look for better opportunities and also focus on families and their own well-being. The initial phase of the pandemic which was clouded in uncertainty and fear, gave way to a re-assessment of their options.

While the ‘Great Resignation’ continues to rage, organizations and employers are now scrambling to set practices to enable employees to stay on and to live happily ever after with them.  With over 20 million employees quitting their jobs in the later part of 2021 alone – and counting, which led to financial and cultural voids within organizations – employers can no longer continue working in a vacuum and have realised that they need to innovate and push effective strategies in order to retain existing workforce as well as attract new talent.

The Great Resignation wasn’t entirely people quitting their jobs – as some did not leave the workforce entirely but sought better opportunities for themselves and prioritized flexible workspace, well-being and better perks – leading to the Great Reshuffle. Employees were no longer obliged to put up with mean bosses or toxic work places. Either ways, the HR ROI has been severely impacted.

So, how should organizations start with changes? What would make the difference to make an employee, especially if he/she is sitting on the fence, to stay on?

The quick fix that organizations sought – pay increases, bonuses and more went south – because they never delved into why employees were leaving in the first place. And this attitude just re-iterated to the departing employees that the work place has no ties and is merely transactional. Their quest for purposeful work, meaningful connections and feeling valued at work remained unfulfilled. And this is an ongoing situation – it is not getting over fast unless organizations take the bull by the horns. 40% of employees at any point of time are planning to quit in the next 3-6 months – whether they have a job lined up or not.

The key to insights on factors contributing to the Great Retention Drive lie in the data collected and inferred from Exit interviews of the earlier departing employees. A dipstick survey reveals that employees cited flexible working conditions and company policies as the main accelerator followed by workplace toxicity, recognition, opportunities and learnings.

So, what can Companies do to address these? Some thoughts:

Ownership – Empower your workforce to take ownership for the work they do. This entails coaching managers to let go of micro-managing and developing employees to take accountability pro-actively.

Transparency – Share with employees right at the onset what their career path can be within the organization. Explain the terms and conditions associated like performance parameters being met, special projects, getting brownie points etc.

Recognising good performance – to ensure employees feel valued. Not being valued by the organization is cited by 54% of the departing workforce as the number one reason for leaving. A large part of it is also developing career growth. Employees are looking for better career trajectories and if employers start right by putting the right person for the right job they can help build a career path for the employee to thrive.

Flexibility – In order to motivate employees and managers to focus on results a re-orientation of workplace flexibility is necessary. Find ways to work out a hybrid work format that is a win-win. Re-evaluate company policies on leaves, travel etc. to meet the changed employee needs.

Build a culture of trust – Share your vision with your team and show how employees are part of making that a success story. Get everyone on the same page. Infuse a sense of ownership and respect throughout your organization. Publicly recognise performance specially if it has contributed to the bottom line. Has your culture kept up with the changing employee priorities?

Make time to connect – Build rapport with employees at a personal level. Tell them about yourselves and get to know them and understand what is important and a priority for them. Encourage fun at work. As employees start returning to office, work on re-orientation and re-engaging activities.

Encourage Learning – to include sharing of expertise. Focus on informative discussions and arguments to provoke thoughts, and foster the ability to conduct those in a civil and productive way.

Cater to emotional well-being at work – Reskill, upskill and make people feel comfortable in the new hybrid world. Work on biases, gender parity, equity and inclusion. Leverage the age diversity of your workforce to move forward. Younger workforce does not necessarily spell efficiency.

Build a community not an office – Encourage activities that enable employees to connect with each other and have a sense of belonging. Developing psychological safety is a critical part of it. Employers need to demonstrate that they are invested in their employee’s success.

It is a given now that Companies which understand the needs of the individual team members and develop a purposeful and rewarding job around them, have an edge over other Companies to retain talent as well as attract new talent. By having genuine conversations – Retention Conversations rather than Exit Interviews, organizations can find the sweet spot to execute changes that help their team members succeed and feel valued.


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